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Industry 4.0: The Art Of Keeping Production Flows On Track

By David S. Chang

Experts are saying that the world is currently in the fourth industrial revolution. When you look around the manufacturing landscape, you have to admit they’re onto something. Way back in the early 2000s, experts were warning that robots were going to take the jobs of many skilled workers.

In fact, more jobs were created but we made in different and new sectors. Now instead of robots, automation is being seen as the new challenge. Although automation is extremely useful for businesses, workers are proving themselves to be just as valuable to the overall running of facilities and warehouses. If you run a manufacturing company, there are two things you’re worried about the most.

First, you want to merge your machines and people to work together effectively and secondly, you want to evolve your production flows to satisfy the increased demand from emerging markets. If you want to thrive instead of just survive then you need to utilize the technology of Industry 4.0.

No cookie-cutter solution

Software plays the biggest role in modern manufacturing facilities. Products can be made more unique than ever before. With personalized machines and tools, your products can be shaped and designed to your exact specifications. The machines need to, therefore, run on unique software.

This means the cookie-cutter solution is no longer in effect and examining your company’s approach to software and automation must occur. Invest heavily in your own machines, tools and the software needed to run them. Partnering with software specialist companies gives you the platform you required to create programs from the ground up. With this ability, you can adapt your technology quicker and more easily. 

A product might be in need of an update in design rather than software due to an export market’s wishes. Well since you can program your own software, your machines, robots, and tools can quickly adapt. The new settings flow seamlessly into an automation cycle so every new product is made to the updated requirements.

With your own software, it makes administration easier too, since managers and c-suite ranks don’t have to wait until the third-party software owner has made the desired changes for you. Running your own show, everything is in your favor. 

Don’t discount the old

We may live in the new age of industry, but things that are old are still valid. The physical equipment of your production line will still use older methods. For example, nothing is going to replace chain conveyors because they effortlessly transport products from one area of your facility to another.

Chain roller conveyors are used to move any kind of products up to 2,000kg. For chilled products you have the stainless steel option great for low temperature facilities. Twin, triple and multi-strand conveyors give you options for varying production flows. Conveyors are usually used to transport finished products to the packaging section. They keep the products stable and continuously moving to where they are required.

Workstation desks are still required for your employees to work effectively. An open floor plan in a manufacturing facility is still the standard but giving your employees their own area in which to effectively use their skills also remains the standard. The merging of different zones has steadily increased such as the fitting and finishing of products. Managers will see more of each other as a result so face to face and digital communication are kept as important as each other. 

Manufacturing optimization 

The urgency in a manufacturing facility rises when there is a need to satisfy increased demand. This is perhaps where Industry 4.0 has really begun to shine and separate itself from previous eras. The risk management team and the sales department must work together.

From these two departments, you will be told when production needs to increase and why. It’s the job of the risk department to foresee the needs of emerging markets and how your business could play a role in them. The sales teams will keep their finger on the pulse regarding purchase rates from existing and emerging markets. How do you physically increase production flows to stay fluidly on track? 

First, increase productivity. If a facility is capable of creating 2,000 examples of a product but is only managing 1,900, there’s a big problem. Waste is the bane of all production flows. Lean manufacturing strategies need to be implemented to limit needless time-wasting and defections in the production line.

Manufacturing optimization also relies on supply chain management so you have the materials you need at all times. Logistical optimization feeds off the direction of your sales and operations. These two also feed off your inventory management so you’re not producing more than you’re selling. 

Big data

Everything, absolutely everything has to be logged. Every aspect of your manufacturing facility, production and sales must be stored as data. Data collection is paramount because there’s no other way of knowing the ins and outs of your business.

However, cloud computing is making big data applicable to everyday work. You can access your sales reports from years ago and compare them to the present day. Departments can log their own data and collate them to the overall data of the company via the cloud system. Therefore every department is making their problems and successes available. With this available data, the c-suite is in a better position to pinpoint concerns. 

Issues can be isolated and when they are having a knock-on effect the cause or causes can be better identified. Big data allows for a comprehensive understanding of your operations, production standards and where optimization can best occur. Sales and overall performance reports can, therefore, have real evidence with black and white numbers taken from the data.

In Industry 4.0, the most attention has to be given to the fluidity of your production flow. To keep on track with increased demand, you must continue to improve your productivity and efficiency. No more cookie-cutter software solutions, create your own to service the exact needs of your industrial equipment. But also, never discount the positive growth affect your conveyors and modern workstations can have.

David S. Chang

Award-Winning Entrepreneur, Wealth Manager and CEO | Chief Editor, Author, Keynote Speaker, Consultant ArtofThinkingSmart.com | Political Consultant | Army Officer National Guard | Living To Fulfill Needs, Solve Problems, and Live Passionately!

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